It’s easy to be skeptical about the implications that an expanded Blade Runner universe has – the franchising of a film that basically screamed about the dangers of globalisation from its neon-drenched rooftops almost feels wrong. But then something like Black Out 2022 comes out, and it’s worth every bizarre tie-in whiskey advert.

Written and directed by  Shinichirō Watanabe and scored by the eccentric Flying Lotus, Black Out 2022 is an insane combination of talent that just makes perfect sense. Watanabe, creator of beloved anime like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo is known for his excellent world-building and taste in music – so is Blade Runner, so it’s a good match. The short is the final of three prequels, the first two of which were directed by Luke Scott – all filling out background details in the long gap inbetween the events of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.

Watanabe’s short co-opts much of the score and look of the original film for the opening, but quickly diverges – Vangelis’s synths and the pretty, slow openings shot of future Los Angeles is soon replaced by abrasive black-and-white shots of rioting and a chaotic, jazzy score. Where the other two shorts feel like viral marketing in the same vein as Prometheus or Alien Covenant, this is work that could stand alone. Watanabe effectively, if a little bluntly, covers big themes is a small amount of time – condensing issues of class, race and even just being into a stylish and tragic 15 minutes filled with gorgeous back drops and (mostly) slick animation. The dialogue may sound like bad anime dubbing at times, but it’s hard to care with a such a wild merging of creator and franchise, even if it still feels weird to refer to Blade Runner as such.


CAST: Jovan Jackson, Luci Christian, Edward James Olmos

DIRECTOR: Shinichirō Watanabe

WRITERS: Shinichirō Watanabe

MUSIC: Flying Lotus

SYNOPSIS: In 2022, an EMP detonation has caused a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world.